1,600 Colleges Are Now Test-Optional. How Many Will Go Back?

"The University of Massachusetts Amherst has historically required prospective undergraduate students to submit a standardized test score as part of their applications. In fact, doing otherwise has never seriously been considered by the public research institution, says Mike Drish, director of first-year admissions.

Enter COVID-19.

With schools and testing centers closed across the country, COVID-19 has prevented at least one million students in the high school class of 2021 from taking the ACT or SAT exams. Even now, as testing has resumed—albeit with social distancing, face coverings and limited seating—access to testing centers is not equal, nor equitable. Many hundreds of thousands of students are still waiting to take an exam.

The pandemic swiftly changed the conversation around testing at UMass Amherst, as it did at the now hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide that have embraced a test-optional policy for the class of 2021.

As higher education last spring was transformed—with dorms vacated and classes moved online overnight—many admissions officers were closely following word from the College Board, which administers the SAT, and the ACT. When the College Board announced in the spring that it would pause its plans to offer an at-home exam this fall, Drish says he and his colleagues realized in-person testing would be precarious, if it took place at all." …